Breeding (conventional and molecular) has one of the highest rates of return among the investments in agricultural research. National Banana Research Programme has made significant breeding achievements, ranging from generation of new hybrids to selection and release of new matooke hybrids meeting consumer preference. Below are the achievements made during this reporting period.

Developing banana populations for mapping weevil resistance

An F2 populations were generated from a diploid by diploid cross of a weevil susceptible Kasaska with a resistant Boneo (Musa acuminata microcarpa). In 2014, the population was used to assess weevil damage to field grown and potted plants. Bioassays of weevils on corms showed significant variation in larvae head capsule width, body weight and larva mortality, indicating segregation. In contrast, there was no segregation in the dry matter or corm hardness suggesting that the underlying plant effect on weevil is chemical rather that physical.

Data on different parameters showed that body weight, peripheral damage and total damage had the highest heritability of 33.4, 32.0 and 24.0, respectively compared to other larvae resistance and weevil damage parameters. This shows that these parameters are highly inherited and can be used for selection among in diploid breeding.

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The vast majority of the bananas currently grown and consumed were not conventionally bred but are selections made over probably thousands of years from naturally occurring hybrids. Cultivated bananas are very nearly sterile and as a consequence are not propagated from seed but rather through vegetative propagation, primarily suckers as well as more recently micropropagated or tissue cultured bananas. These factors, very old selections, near sterility and vegetative propagation, mean that these bananas have not been genetically improved either for resistance or improved quality and are becoming increasing in affected by serious pests and diseases.

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